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Do it Tomorrow and GTD: Comments on the two systems?

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  • #16
    I too am in R&D and I am cursed with the new idea every 60 seconds syndrome. The result is really, really (and I mean really) long lists if you follow GTD to the letter of the law and get all of those things firing in your head down on paper.

    Based on my personality type (and maybe yours too), I have to restrain myself and not write everything down. I have to let some things slide and only write down what is important. Otherwise - I have a 12 hour weekly review (not fun). I try to put things into projects that I want to do and that way I can focus on the projects and fill them up with ideas and next actions.

    I think you have to bend some of the rules a bit based on your personality type. David uses the analogy of walking through nature and seeing everything as either a berry or a snake (idea that is pleasing vs idea that is distasteful). We have to learn to just enjoy the nature walk without picking up every berry and snake and stuffing it into our backpack.

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    • #17
      Hi Longstreet,
      Mark Forster's book DIT is excellent. He provides some insights that IMO are a good complement to GTD. What I use as a system is a combination of Forster's DIT and GTD. In a nutshell Forster gives me a "day" focus while GTD gives me a "week" focus.

      I've grouped related projects together into categories, and related categories into areas. That provides a structure to work the "horizons of focus" reviews. I then spread out the reviews over time so I don't have a single, dreaded lengthy review time. I essentially break down the reviews into NAs and review by area, by category and by project.

      When determining the active project list, I go "top-down." First the active categories are determined, then within each active category the active projects are determined. This has cut away alot of "overhead" for me. Then with the active projects, I determine which ones I'm intending to work on in the next week. This forms my active project list for the week. From these active projects I create a list of next actions, which is essentially an NA "week" list. Its also a closed list. Each morning I create a "daily" closed list from this NA "week" list.

      When creating this daily closed list I also look at another daily list, the day/time specific list for "today." These are the "hard landscape" tasks and the daily routines. I include Forster's backlogs and "current initiatives" as routines on this list. Then during the day I work off of both lists - the day/time specific list and the daily closed list.

      Then at the end of the week I review what was done during the week - including the unexpected tasks. If I can, I relate these tasks back to projects and categories. Then I create a new active project list again.

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      • #18
        Bottom Line

        My perspective, for what it's worth: The thing that Forster's method does is helping you understand your own limits in terms of a day's work. These limits are somewhat absolute, give the "quality of life" you wish to have. You could burn out, or be proactive about it and take care of yourself.

        David Allen expects you to make judgements about your limits "on the fly" as you review your lists, using several criteria (energy, context, etc.) This assumes a certain amount of self-trust, discernment and personal discipline. If moving your items to your Someday/List only makes the list grow, and does not help you to balance your life - i.e. your intuition is not helped by putting things out of the way but in a place you will regularly review - then you need a different strategy to meet your goal of determining the boundaries of your work.

        The idea of temporarily putting things you are committed to on your Someday/Maybe list seems not to work for you. Things that you want to get done are being blended with things are truly "Someday..." and "Maybe...", that is, things that you really aren't concerned about completing this week/month/quarter or year.

        I think you need to set some criteria for your categories that have clear meaning in your personal situation. For what its worth, David says that Projects (10,000 foot perspective) are things you actually intend to check off as "done" in about the next three months or less. Whereas Focus Areas (20,000 foot perspective) are 10-15 things you intend to make progress on in the next 3-6 months. Short Term goals are 1-2 years out, and so on...

        May I first suggest that you leave Someday/Maybe for just that - things you wish/hope will happen and just don't want to lose track of, in case an opportunity to fulfill them comes into view? Then, place some "hard edges" around your definition of Projects (i.e. a <3 month completion range, one Term/semester etc.) After that, move things up the ladder, based on their time-frame. Review your Focus Areas each month, and let the Focus Areas generate Projects. You can keep Project possibilities or commitments in the notes of each Focus Area as opportunities to move that area forward.

        It is just my perspective, but this will at least allow you to place a framework around your commitments that has meaningful limits. If you have a hard edge around the commitment level that each list represents, then you can't add "more" projects without raising the possibility of having to renegotiate something else on the list.

        You can (of course) do this in whatever manner works for you, but remember that the principle is to develop a system that allows less stress because you have done your thinking on the front end, when the "stuff" entered your life. When something new arises, do your due diligence and think through where it fits. If you have a commitment, process it into the level at which it belongs, renegotiating as necessary to stay within your boundaries. Without this your system falls apart. Your use of Someday/Maybe seems to be presently undermining the purpose of your system - and the stress is creeping back in.

        Best Wishes,
        Gordon
        Last edited by BigStory; 02-07-2008, 06:51 PM.

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        • #19
          Drowning in academia

          Longstreet, my corner of academia sounds very much like yours. Here are some things that I've found to be useful. They may be quite basic but they help, at least to a certain extent.

          (1) I designate each day of the week (or half of a day) as belonging to a particular project or type of activity. For example, I read and comment on my grad students' thesis writing on Monday mornings and only on Monday mornings. I do my best to keep these frames crisp and not allow stuff to bleed into other days/times unless there's a very compelling reason. I've built in flexibility for last-minute and crisis stuff by leaving open 60 minutes each day around noon that I can devote to whatever is most pressing. This system helps psychologically in the sense that I feel reassured that there is time set aside on a regular basis for the major categories of work.

          (2) I've stopped working with my office door open. I got a big sign for my office door that says Do Not Disturb. I hole up in my office during the times I've designated (see above) and do not answer the phone.

          (3) I realized that communicating with people who wanted to schedule an appointment with me was taking too much time, even if done by email. I gave my secretary a limited number of open slots she can fill each week when approached by someone who wants to see me; she emails me when she fills one of these slots, so I know to expect the person. To my email signature lines, I've added a note to the effect that requests for appointments will be handled by my secretary. There's a sign on my office door with the same message. The number of requests sent directly to me dropped dramatically, as did the amount of time in back-and-forth emails about possible times to meet or, worse, phone tag. I deal directly with someone wanting an appointment only if they're a peer or someone higher up on the food chain.

          (4) I've become ruthless in declining to sit on additional university committees unless the dean would like to relieve me of a current committee assignment. Same for "initiatives."

          (5) I've learned to back out of commitments. I don't like doing this but the alternative is that drowning feeling that wakes me out of a sound sleep at 4 am.

          (6) I've worked hard to become comfortable with the idea of producing "good enough" work, albeit selectively. Something's gotta give, so in order to write that fabulous grant proposal, you may need to accept a mediocre course prep from yourself.

          Good luck and let us know how it goes for you.

          Comment


          • #20
            Originally posted by BigStory View Post
            My perspective, for what it's worth: The thing that Forster's method does is helping you understand your own limits in terms of a day's work. These limits are somewhat absolute, give the "quality of life" you wish to have. You could burn out, or be proactive about it and take care of yourself.

            David Allen expects you to make judgements about your limits "on the fly" as you review your lists, using several criteria (energy, context, etc.) This assumes a certain amount of self-trust, discernment and personal discipline.
            Good point. Let me add a little to it. DA also seems to expect actually having some sort of a schedule (which is determined by "outside" factors). So, for example, when do you have to be at work, get up, get the kids from school and so on? This is a realm totally outside of GTD. DIT is different here: it is creating a daily structure. Not a whole schedule or rules for when to get to work, but nevertheless adding structure to the flow of time.

            Now, if you sense that you need more "traffic-lights" in your daily flow through time, you can use DIT for it. Or come up with your own set od schedulers.

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            • #21
              Thanks for all of the great advice!

              Hi Folks,

              Thanks so much for the great advice. I think what I am going to do is embrace a lot of what people have suggested here. I am going to create a hybrid of DIT and GTD and see how it goes. I use Outlook 2007 and here is how I have set things up. The tasks list is setup per standard GTD with my next action context lists and one column with due dates. The To-Do bar on the calendar page is setup to show only those next actions that have a due date on or before today. Thus, I will create my closed list from my next actions list for the day. I will strive to complete my most important next actions -- which are on this closed list -- and once I am done with them, work from my standard context lists. Of course, if something unexpected, urgent, and important comes up during the day, I will deal with it and not fret that it is not on my closed list.

              Janezo, thanks from another fellow "drowning in academia"! I actually have been blocking off time for my graduate students and other projects as you have suggested.

              I think the bottom line for me -- at least right now -- is that I need a bit more structure in my approach. I guess I am one of those people that thrives more on structure -- but too much structure!

              Best to all,
              -Longstreet

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              • #22
                I have read this thread with interest because I have also been working to combine Getting things done, do it tomorrow, get everything done and other ideas I have picked up from blogs I read.

                What I have learnt is that it is important to develop your own organisation system, using the ideas from other people that work for you. I started by rereading the three books and writing down what I saw as the key points and ideas, I then looked for similarities and compatibilities between the systems. I then started working out what would work for me and designing my own system. You can read more about this process on my blog http://www.darktea.co.uk/blog/series...sation-system/

                I currently use a paper organiser and feel that I have much more control than I did when I used digital. The sections of my organiser closely follow Getting things done, but the methodology is closer to do it tomorrow by working on todays incoming tasks tomorrow and utilising a backlog.

                I am a consultant and therefore my challenge is to deal with the large number of varied tasks that I have and this means my organisation system does not stand still as I work to develop it further. The two areas I am looking to improve over the coming months are contexts and projects.

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                • #23
                  Interesting thread. Very broad set of responses, and a lot of sincerity there, too. Very heartening to see.

                  I'm a newbie to GTD, and I'm still climbing the learning curve.

                  However, I want to comment to the original poster about the depressing aspect of having 10+ things on the todo list, getting 10 things done on an EXTREMELY productive day, only to have 10+ more things added.... I've been there. I have and do live it. The subsequent comment about "must say 'no' more" is to the point, but I know how difficult that can be.

                  I came to see this situation differently several years ago. I was in a small workgroup in which we spent a lot of time with Myers-Briggs profiles and preferences. I'm NT (Intuitive Thinking) and always have huge lists, like washing dishes in a restaurant or painting a bridge. One of my colleagues was an SJ (Sensing Judging), and I was amazed to see his to do list for the week on a Wednesday: It had 10 items and 4 of them were crossed off. I was amazed and envious. "How can he do that? How can he have just 10 items and stick with them, not have them turned upside down midweek?"

                  I came away from the experience with two thoughts: one is a spur for more self-discipline and another for self-acceptance. There must be an opportunity for greater self-discipline....if I pick important things wisely and stick with them, I'll get them done and feel good about it and myself at the end of the week. The self-acceptance, though, was recognizing that I will always have huge lists due to huge broad interests that come from my string Intuitive function. My colleague, an excellent person and worker, didn't have as broad a view of life and work as I did, and actually had to look for things to involve himself in. I don't have that problem. I will always have lots of possibilities looming out there on the horizon. I just have to manage my own expectations, and know that I'll always have large todo lists. What's important is that I'm getting things done and making progress. I had to resist evaluating my own lists from an SJ perspective. Not me, and never will be.

                  Take care, and good luck.

                  Alan

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by aprochaska View Post
                    I'm NT (Intuitive Thinking) and always have huge lists, like washing dishes in a restaurant or painting a bridge. One of my colleagues was an SJ (Sensing Judging), and I was amazed to see his to do list for the week on a Wednesday: It had 10 items and 4 of them were crossed off.
                    Fascinating. I'm asking my team at the moment to complete Belbin and Myers Briggs tests so I can work out the best way we should be working, however I have not thought about how it works for a task list.

                    I am STJ and have a long task list. As I follow aspects of Do it tomorrow I make a mark on my task list of a days work and at the end of December 2007 I was over 90 days behind. I decided to declare a backlog, which I am working through as my current initiative and have got it down to 55 days and my current task list is 18 days behind.

                    I have also accepted that this is who I am.

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                    • #25
                      I just finished reading Do It Tomorrow and think it is a fine book. I do think it will appeal more to the self employed in my opinion. Specifically those whho have sort of well known business missions or life goals and less input from a boss.

                      The idea of a closed list is central to the book as well as a daily task diary and not doing anything you do not write down. I tried this for a few days and it is eye opening to see what you think you can get done versus what you actually get done. The idea of a closed list for daily actions makes sense to me, but I actually like open lists of projects and someday/maybes because I like to see things I could be doing and track them. I am more concerned about forgetting a good idea or something I might want to do than having too much on a list. I personally think GTD covers the idea of a daily task list with its use of the calendar. If something has to be done by a certain date, according to GTD it is put on a calendar.

                      For me I like to see lists of projects and waiting fors on lists it just makes sense to me, versus having to flip through many pages. But, I can see how the daily task list can lead to more focus and productivity.

                      At this point after implementing GTD first, I can not see a method working for me that does not attempt to record all of my open loops and ideas on lists. The idea of viewing the landscape on a few pages just makes sense to me.

                      I do think there are ideas in both methods that could meld well together.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by ggoldman View Post
                        I just finished reading Do It Tomorrow and think it is a fine book. I do think it will appeal more to the self employed in my opinion. Specifically those whho have sort of well known business missions or life goals and less input from a boss.
                        As a senior manager in a corporatised utility, I'd offer that DIT can work as well as GTD (perhaps better in my case) even with considerable input from a boss. I found the key to be letting the boss know how I work. Early on, I explained why his/others emails are not responded to immediately and how he can be more assured of me completing tasks and actions than perhaps others who have overflowing inboxes and no systems to tackle the overload/their over-commitment. He has commented on this more than once, saying he knows that things will get completed when asks me to action them.

                        I have found that my closed lists have enabled me to crank widgets like never before. I fall off the wagon as often as I did with GTD but the recovery is so much swifter.

                        YMMV considerably

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